Winnipeg's Jazz Magazine


Ignorance Is Bliss

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I’m writing this letter while parked along a highway in Arizona. The closest perceivable form of life is a very tall and spiny cactus. It’s one of thousands. I may as well be on Mars by the look of the landscape.

Perspective is tricky out here—things can look close, yet be so far from reach. I stare at a mound of boulders and am duly impressed by their massiveness, yet after a closer look, I notice that the tiny specks at the base of those boulders are actually huge buildings.

It’s very hot and gusty, and it’s a far cry from Winnipeg. I feel disconnected from everything. For a change, that’s okay for me.

I’m taking full advantage of my sabbatical, and leaving the Jazz Studies team in charge. The last I heard, incoming auditions were at the highest levels ever. Though we can only accept 15, there were over 50 auditions. I’m told that 40 of them were fantastic, so we wound up turning away many good prospects.

There was a time when the Jazz Program depended on my constant presence. That’s no longer true. Though it still requires thoughtful stewardship, it’s grown to be quite a sturdy little engine. When I think of what it took for my team to get to this point, I realize that it was good fortune that I didn’t know how impossible our goal was.

I’m reminded of a survey which stated that the majority of kindergarten children score high in the creativity quotient. They also found that as the years passed a lower and lower percentage of children in the same group were able to score high in that area. The researchers suggested that creativity is literally stripped out of a child as they are socialized into more practical thinking. It’s also possible that these students discovered that being creative required too huge an effort to make it habitual.

Part of our venture arsenal (along with blind ambition) is innocence. Another part is ignorance. Most important projects seem to lie just within reach of our inflated sense of ability as we start out.

We lose our innocence when we learn how difficult it really is to accomplish the goal. We lose our ignorance when we get a handle on how to do the task effectively. With enough conviction—or stubbornness—and dumb luck, we’re close enough to our goal when our eyes finally open to grind our way there using experience, guts and savvy.

As I sit on this roadside and look at those distant mountains I realize that we all experience a bit of Terrain Perspective Disorder from time to time. Mountains appear closer than they are. Tasks appear easier than they actually are. Habits are harder to break than you expect.

The fortune of encountering “TPD” is threefold: you’re about to face a life-altering test of character; you will realize a greater degree of respect for your aspiration; and you will be even more inspired by those around you who were already there laying the groundwork for your arrival…

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